Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is a Finnish Man concludes with what the Ari's said

still from the Finnish documentary The Living Room of the Nation by Jukka Kȁrkkȁinen, which films ordinary folks in their everyday lives, filmed entirely in living rooms. Find a short review here.

Is humour perhaps another constant that lies behind every Finnish man, no matter how subterranean it is?

"Finnish men abound in humour? Now I understand what all the laughing was about." FB post from Ari Lahdekorpi.

Now, that made me laugh! How perfect is that for a response to my FB query about what is a Finnish man in one sentence? A Finnish man using humour to dispute that Finnish men abound in humour! This is a classic Finnish male retort: witty, funny, to the point, and oh, so true. Unfortunately, I received Ari Lahdekorpi's one-liner about Finnish men after we (my sisters and I) had sent our article to New World Finn for publishing....

Among his many talents and jobs, Ari Lahdekorpi is a jazz, blues, and folk musician. He used to live here in Thunder Bay but is now on Canada's west coast; when he was here, Ari was also active in the local Finnish community and his positive energies and visionary thinking are sorely missed! Ari also writes music reviews regularly for NWF; on his MySpace page you can find a review of "Haunted" the latest disc by Janita, a Finnish singer now living in the US.

In his review of Janita's Haunted, Ari states this about the psychic nature of Finns:

"One of the knocks against Finns is the somber, stoic, often depressed nature that we have a tendency toward. Perhaps it’s in our genes. Researchers have discovered that the tissue around our genes, known as epi-genetic material, actually has a type of genetic memory that stores traumas within a given life span that can be transmitted as a tendency to subsequent generations. This epi-genetic material can even impact on how the DNA sequence forms. Evolutionary biologists suggest that this is why Giraffes developed long necks in a relatively short period of time. So, perhaps this natural tendency among Finns toward depression is an unwelcome gift from our Suomalainen forefathers....."

Well, I have a long neck and I'm a Finlander, so, oh, boy! does that mean I may be genetically related to giraffes, too?

Of course, like any other culture, the Finnish community is internally divided, so there are lots of different perspectives on an issue. The title of Aki Kaurismaki's dark comedy suggests that without a past we may be either a) lost; b) free to make a new life; or c) both lost and free, i.e. confused. Unmoored. Rootless. Ungrounded.

While it was too late for me to include Ari Lahdekorpi's wit, it was not too late for me to include the wit of another Ari, my cousin who lives in Finland. While my cousin Ari is definitely skilled in the arts of the famous Finnish one-line humorous/sarcastic retort, this time he had a few things to say:

I leave the last word to a Finnish man, my cousin, Ari, who reminded me in a recent email that a Finnish man is defined in relation to the idiosyncrasies of Finnish women. He says that a Finnish man is who he is because he has to put up with Finnish women who are impossible!

Ari explains: "A finnman is the most patient creature of the whole world, he can manage even with finnish women. That is the biggest thing a man can achieve. A finnish man can also think what he is going to do, he can for instance buy cameras that last over 50 years.* The time schedule is too long for finnish women… finnish men have perseverance but finnish women are very short tempered.”

[*note: this is a reference to my dad's camera, that my sister, Katja, blogged about.]

Great music! a must watch: Ari Lahdekorpi jams with Jukka Tolonen at The Outpost, the student pub at Lakehead University. 2006


marja-leena said...

Fascinating series, Taina. It's made me think of my late father of course, as well as uncles and cousins and other Finnish men I've known. They do seem to have some similarities in character and you've given me a lot of food for thought as to whether they are all like your analyses suggest.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with generalities though I do entertain them myself sometimes, such as the differences between the different regions in Finland, eg. the Savolaiset vs Pohjanmaalaiset. Do other ethnic groups have certain sets of characteristics particular to each group, I wonder? How much does climate, religion, patriarchal vs matriarchal society, social status (rich or poor), history etc. affect character? A fascinating topic that I think is impossible to answer without generalities, but it's rather fun to do. I look forward to reading your article in the New Finn when it's online, do let us know!

northshorewoman said...

Hello ML,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, as you mention, there is lots of room for rumination in the topic of Finnish identity and male identity.

There may be something in the genes but then how do we explain all those second or third generation Finns who have completely assimilated? Maybe we socialize the Finnishness out of them. Then again, as you note, the different regions in Finland are so varied and produce different kinds of Finns.

Of course, I completely agree that the natural as well as the built environment shapes who we are...or should I say how we engage with life in our daily lives.

Some people are very skilled at pinpointing exactly which village or region a person belongs to, and that is not only in Finland. I saw that in Lebanon, too.

Black Pete said...

Short-tempered? Really? Maybe my wife isn't really Finnish at all! :) Speaking of generalities, etc! ;)

Which begs the question from the posting: is an Anglo man the way he is because he married a Finnish woman? In 27 years, she must have had Some influence! {mischievous grin}

northshorewoman said...

Black Pete,

yes, of course, we shape each other. I am a Finn shaped by an Arab, my husband is an Arab shaped by a Finn, and you are definitely shaped by a Finnish woman! There is no escaping our ways! Finnish women leave there mark on others....but so to do Arab people. And I know that Anglo folks are persuasive, too. Of course we all shape each other's lives. How can it be otherwise? Is that why some folks become hermits? To try and escape that?

Merche Pallarés said...

Interesting debate! Now I know more about Finnish men and women! About different personalities due to regional contrasts. It's true. In Spain there is a great difference in character between, say, Andalusians and Basques (south and north) between Galicians and Catalans (east and west) etc. Hugs, M.

Unknown said...

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